To ensure bans on the mailing of items deemed harmful to the regime, the government conducts covert investigations, severely punishes companies and employees.
On top of usual articles prohibited from shipment in countries across the world, like “flammables, explosives, firearms or weapons” China has also banned the mailing of “books and periodicals” that are deemed “detrimental” to the interests of the State.
Any writings that “criticize” government policies or its leadership, “Bibles and other religious literature, texts concerning religious movements, such as The Church of Almighty God, Falun Gong or South Korean Christian groups” are prohibited.
The mailing of literature about “Tibet and Xinjiang” which Uyghurs prefer to call East Turkestan, are restricted too.
Postal and courier services are under strict orders to “inspect” packages, and employees that fail to prevent the “prohibited” items from being sent will be punished: “from fines and getting fired to being detained.”
The control over delivery companies is increasing drastically, and the means of how the regime controls what citizens send to each other are becoming more sophisticated.
A branch of the SF Express Group Co., Ltd., a delivery service company based in Shenzhen city in southern China’s Guangdong Province, was fined 100,000 RMB (about $ 14,000) for failing to check items with the symbol of East Turkestan hidden among other things in a package sent by a state employee as part of a covert investigation. The branch was ordered to suspend business for nine days, and the staff member who accepted the package were fired.
Postal and courier companies’ employees confirmed that law enforcement personnel often disguise themselves as their clients, attempting to entrap them by sending politically-charged goods, like T-shirts with slogans supporting protests in Hong Kong. Staff members at company branches who failed to discover such forbidden items or didn’t refuse sending them received warnings.
A source who works in the delivery business revealed that in late September, one of his clients was identified as a “terrorist suspect” for trying to mail a T-shirt with a “Pro-Hong Kong” message.
“The government’s control over delivery companies has been intensifying over the past two years, officials conducting open and secret investigations,” the source explained. “In minor cases, some company branches had their business suspended for some time.”
“In serious cases, fines of 200,000 RMB (about $ 28,000) were imposed on a branch under question, and 1,000 – 50,000 RMB (about $ 140 – 7,000) on implicated employees. They may even be sentenced to jail if the shipped items included books on sensitive topics or had religious symbols.”
The source added that for the past two years, the government had demanded to ensure at all times that every sender and recipient had their “legal names” registered, and all packages are always opened for inspection, harsh punishments imposed on offenders.
A Netizen commented on “Douban”, a Chinese social networking site, that such surveillance and investigation methods are very typical in China. “Our government publicly monitors all citizens. We don’t worry about any leaks of our private information because we don’t have privacy at all.”
On the eve of the National Day, celebrated on October 1, a list of punished delivery companies was posted on a Chinese website.
Among other “offenders,” Haishu Zijie Express Co., Ltd. from Zhejiang’s Ningbo city was fined 102,000 RMB (about $ 14,000) for failing to conduct inspections of packages. A company in Xianju county under the jurisdiction of Zhejiang’s Taizhou city was given a fine of 200,000 RMB (about $ 28,000) for not double-checking and registering a client’s ID information.
Apart from secret investigations, the authorities are also strengthening regular monitoring of postal and courier services. In March, a local police stations in Zhejiang’s Hangzhou city installed HD surveillance equipment in some express delivery companies in the area.
“The surveillance cameras allow the police to hear clearly conversations within the company. Everything we say and do is recorded,” said a courier working in one of the companies.
A month after the cameras were installed, one of the couriers was fined 1,000 RMB (about $ 140) for failing to open a parcel for inspection after the local police station discovered it via remote surveillance.
“The courier did not open this client’s parcel to check its content, and the police immediately called,” his colleague revealed, adding that everyday surveillance and clients’ complaints about the inspection of packages had put him under constant stress.
The sentiment is shared by many employees of postal and courier companies across the country, the surveillance tightening amid protests in Hong Kong, and the celebrations of the 70th Anniversary of Communist China in October, as well as other international or large-scale state-organized events.
“Not only items shipped to Beijing and Hong Kong must be checked. In mid-October, the shipment of packages to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, was also restricted because of the Military World Games,” a staff member in one of the courier companies told.
“In late October, articles shipped to Jiaxing city in Zhejiang were strictly inspected because of the ‘World Internet Conference’. Now packages are strictly controlled or even prohibited to be sent to the cities nationwide where various conferences are organized.”
The sale of Bibles has been prohibited, and now it’s not permitted for people to mail them, too. One house church preacher in northern China’s Henan Province wanted to send a copy of a Bible to his nephew via YTO Express, but one of the company’s employees refused, citing government law prohibiting it.
“It isn’t only us. Other courier companies can’t deliver them either,” the employee said. The courier can earn 2 RMB (about $0.30) for each copy sent, but if the authorities discover them, they’ll be subjected to a fine of 2,000 RMB (about $300).
The preacher was disappointed, considering that the CCP has made it impossible to purchase Bibles as early as March 2018, removing them from the shelves of major “regular and online bookstores” across China. He never expected that mailing the Bible would not be possible either.
A believer from Wenzhou City, in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province, was preparing to mail some religious calendars via Best Express but was rejected. The courier company’s staff said that this is a national regulation; as soon as they are found to have violated this rule, they will be fined. The regulations began to be implemented in 2017.
One courier company employee said that during the shipping process, some packages are opened for random inspection. If religious books are found en-route, the courier will be fined 4,000 to 5,000 RMB (about $600 to $750), and the courier company will incur a fine of 10,000 to 20,000 RMB (about $1,500 to $3,000).
He also revealed that since March last year, all courier firms have begun to implement a “real-name” ID system to register mailed items, the main purpose of which is to be able to track down the source.
Books involving political discourse are also included on the list of banned items for mailing. In the office where STO Express employees inspect parcels, the company’s management has posted a proclamation promoting the “elimination of pornography and illegal publications.”
Pic: A poster promoting the “elimination of pornography and illegal publications,” posted in the office where STO Express employees inspect parcels.
“Do not make rash comments about national leaders and avoid political topics. Be alert about the vertical Traditional Chinese characters, and don’t forget to inspect their content. Do not receive or mail illegal publications from Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan. Content related to xie jiao, reactionism or separatism must be censored. Reproduction of pirated content is an infringement of rights, in violation of laws and regulations, and delivery of such items is prohibited. Strict inspections will be carried out when receiving or sending items under the real-name system, and those responsible will be held accountable. If a lead is discovered, it should be promptly reported. Let us work together to ensure secure mail delivery.”